I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal that shared why the best bosses are humble bosses. This reminded me of a few things. First, it reminded me of Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues” (Jossey-Bass, April 2016).
The article also reminded me of a few of my executive clients – particularly those with whom I enjoyed working with the most. They are truly humble leaders. Let’s dig into this further – what does it mean to be a humble leader?
- Ask for feedback. Here are few forms:
- Direct reports. Requesting feedback on the progress the organization is making as it navigates transformational change helps the leader and her team adjust the purpose to ensure they are driving to optimal outcomes.
- All other employees. In town hall meetings and other forums, don’t fill the hour with presentations. Allow at least 1/3 of the time for thoughtful questions and feedback. Ask meaningful questions of the audience to engaged thoughtful feedback.
- Coach. Hire a coach to help you improve your leadership. Look for areas of strength and build on those. Expect honest feedback from your coach – that’s why you are paying them.
- Build healthy conflict. In your team meetings if you see dissent growing in your leadership team, don’t avoid it, dive into it. This especially applies to items you bring to the agenda. Ask team members to clarify their position. Seek out points of difference. Help team members express their concerns productively. Watch for body language that suggests discomfort. Be careful not to embarrass but be sure that all voices are heard.
- Learn from failure. I do not encourage exacerbating wounds, but I do encourage thoughtful discussion about lessons learned. Even in your most successful transformational changes, there are things you might have done differently. Take time to explore those, along with the things you and your team did right.
Use this outline above to assess your own humble leadership. Are you doing these things? How well? If you experienced no hesitation answering any of these questions positively, then it is quite likely that your transformation will be among the few that succeed. Congratulations.
Dedicated to your profitable transformation,